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Great Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on Mines.

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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should be a system in operation in the coal field, whereby

I every company could ascertain whether every workman,
upon being given employment, was competent in what-
ever department of mining he had been engaged in.

(3) Rescue Facilities, — No fixed special provision can
be adopted for all collieries, as rarely are the conditions
and results of any two accidents alike.

(4) Accident Enquiries, — I can suggest no improve-
ment on the present method of investigation into
cases of accident.

I (5) Ventilation, — No definite standard of ventilation
' can be laid down as being applicable to all collieries, as
; the ventilation must differ with the varying nature of the
i seams, also with the depths of the seams, while it is
• known that one system of ventilation is not applicable
^ to two districts in the same seam.

(6) Special Rales, etc. — I consider the present system of
Special Rules adequate, but if they were drafted in a
more condensed form, it would be of assistance to both
workmen and officials. Every workman should be made
to learn the chief provisions of the Coal Mines Regulation
Act before being employed ; I also think that the Act
or a part of it, should be included among the subjects
set in the labour examinations in our schools, thus
making certain that when boys start work underground,
they have a special knowledge of the dangers attending
their occupations.

27192. (Chairman,) You are a night overman in the
employ of the Cambrian Collieries, Clydach Vale, and have
worked underground for 40 years, 19 as a workman and
21 years in different official positions. Have you ever
been outside the Cambrian Collieries ? — Yes, I have been
at Mountain Ash in Powell-Duffryn Colliery, Nixon's, and
at Wattstown in Femdale.

27193. You have had a good deal of experience in South
Wales collieries, but not elsewhere ? — Yes.

27194. What were the different official positions you
occupied ? — From fireman up to overman.

27195. You began as fireman and became an overman ? —
Yes.

27196. How Icmg have you been an overman ?— I have
been about 16 years.



27197. When you began your experience as a fireman
did you consider that the district that you served was more
than you could properly manage ? — No, not at the time.

27198. You never complained, as a fireman, of having
too large a district ? — No.

27199. You were able to do all the duties of fireman in
your district without being overworked ? — Yes.

27200. With regard to your position as an overman, do
you consider that you have more work than you can do
properly ? — No.

27201. What is your duty as an overman ? — To examine
the workings and see that everything is carried on in
working order and in safety.

27202. You are not like a fireman, chiefly concerned
with the safety of the miners ; you have, as overman, to
carry into effect the instructions of the manager or under-
manager, and to see to the working of the mine ? — Yes.

27203. I see among other duties : "He shall direct
that timbers are set in the best manner in all places where
they are required, and shall take care these instructions
are .obeyed." Do you find any difficulty in carrying those
instructions into effect ? Do you find that the men are
desirous of setting their own tunber and do not like to be
interfered with ? — No, I cannot complain of the men.

27204. They are quite ready to fall in with your direc-
tions with regard to setting timber ? — Yes ; I have always
found them so.

27205. Do your duties overlap the duties of firemen at
all ? Do you and the firemen have, to some extent^ the
same duties to perform ? — I have to go through every
working place : the fireman goes through once a day,

27206. I mean an examiner when I say a fireman ? —
Yes.

27207. I see one of your duties is to examine every
working place once during the shift ? — Yes.

, 27208. Before the shift the working places are examined
by the examiner ? — By the fireman.

27209. Notwithstanding that examination before the
shift, you have to go round during the shift and examine
every working place ? — Yes.

27210. You have something to tell us about lamps.
You consider that double gauze lamps are safer than single
gauze lamps ? — Yes.

27211. And should be generally adopted in preference.
Of course, the difficulty arises in this way : double gauze
lamps do not give nearly as much light as the single gauze
lamps ? — They are confined too much.

27212. Supposing you had a lamp that gives a better
light, if you cover it with double gauze it would certainly
give less light than a single gauze lamp ? — Yes.

27213. So that you have to balance one consideration
agaiost another ? — Yes.

27214. You are decidedly of opinion that where it is
practicable that a double gauze lamp should be used if
sufficient light can be got out of it ?— Yes.



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27215. Have you anything to go upon when you say
that ? Have you any statistics as to accidents that you
believe have been caused by lamps only having a single
gauze ? — No.

27216. What is the proportion of double and single
gauze lamps employed in the collieries you have worked
in ? — Where do you mean ? *

27217. Do you think that more single gauze lamps or
double gauze lamps are used in the mines you know ? —
More single gauze lamps.

27218. Have you anything to say as to accidents which
have happened in cases where double gausie lamps have
been used, and oases where single gauze lamps have been
used ? Do you think more accidents have happened
where single gauze lamps are used ? — My opinion of the
double gauze kmp is that it will go out quicker in gas. It
is not possible for that lamp to explode

27219. Have you known instances of an explosion in
the case of single gauze lamps where if double gauze lamps
had been employed there would have been no explosion ?
— We would save a good many of them, I daresay.

27220. You would save many an explosion ? — Yes.

27221. Then with regard to shot-firing, you suggest as
an additional precaution that all holes should be charged
by a competent official appointed by the colliery company.
What is the usual practice in your mines ? — We charge
our own holes.

27222. Every collier ? — Every official. We keep an
official at our colliery.

27223. The officials do charge the holes in your colliery ?
—Yes.

27224. You know that in other places they do not ? —
Yes.

27225. You want that rule to be made obligatory ?—
Yes.

27226. That is the practice that obtains in your colliery ?
— Yes.

27227. You say that accidents arising from falls could be
minimised by a more regular attendance of men at their
work. What do you attribute that irregular attendance
to ? Is it to a desire on the part of the men not to do
more than a certain number of days' work in the week, or
to any action of the managers in restricting the output ? —
We want regular working.

27228. You consider it is a great pity that the men
should not work regularly ? — Yes.

27229. Whenever they can do so ? — Yes.

27230. You go on to say that there should be a system
in o})eration in the coalfield whereby every company could
ascertain whether every workman upon being given
employment was competent in whatever department of
mining he had been engaged in. That would be very
desirable if it could be carried into efToct. I suppose in
their own iirteresta managers would see a man was a

(competent miner as far as they could ? — ^I do not know.
I do not see how they could refuse a pai)er to a man when
he was leaving the colliery to go elsewhere to work.

27231. So that you mean where a man is practically
discharged for being incompetent the manager is kind-
hearted enough to give him a certificate to get employment
elsewhere, although not very competent ? — There are a
good many of oxn* men travelling w^ho will be assistant
timbermen first. They wiU go to the next colliery in a
few months before they have properly learned timbering,
and ask for work at timbering, and say they have been
timbering at the Cambrian ColUories or elsewhere. They
will get a place and perhaps get killed.

272:^2. If a man seeks employment as a timberer in
another mine, I suppose the man he goes to would demand
some security that he knows about it ? — That is what I
want.

27233. You would Like every manager or under-manager
to state in the certificate that he gives to the workmen
who leave his mine, exactly what their qualifications are 7
—Yes.

27234. Now he says he has worked so long as a timberer ?
—Yes.

27235. I rather understood, from reading the notes of
your evidence, that when a man left the colliery to get
work elsewhere you were in favour of the colliery which
had employed him stating in detail what qualifications he
possessed, but I understand from -Mr. Abraham what you
want is tiiis, not that the man under whom he was employed
should be bound to give him a detailed statement as to his



competency, but that he should be exaznined in some way
as to his competency ? — Yes.

27236. A sort of public examination ? — Yes.

(Mr, Wm. Abraham.) He sa3r8 a system in operation in
the coalfield.

27237. {Chairman.) Whereby every company could
ascertain whether every workman was competcoit. The
system you suggest is a system of public examination ? —
Yes.

27238. As to rescue facilities, you say that no fixed special
provision can be adopted for all collieries, as rarely are the
conditions and results of any two accidents alike. I do
not think it quite follows because the conditions and results
of no two accidents are alike that there may net be a general
system laid down for having rescue facilities in mines that
might be useful in almost every kind of accident. Tlien
you can suggest no improvement on the present method of
investigation into the cause of accidents ? — No.

27239. You are quite satisfied with the verdict and the
evidence produced at coroner's inquests ? — Yes, I am.

27240. With regard to ventilation, you say that no
definite standard of ventilation can be laid down as being
applicable to all collieries, as the ventilation must differ
with the varying nature of seams, also with the depth of
the seams, while it is known that one system of ventilation
is not applicable to two districts in the same seam. I
rather gather from that view of yours that you think that
General Rule No. 1 is about as far as you can get ? —
Yes.

27241. You are satisfied with General Rule 1. Then
with regard to the Special Rules, you consider the present
system of Special Rules adequate. What do you mean
by the present system of Special Rules ? Do you mean
the Special Rules themselves as they are enforced in your
district, or that the system of setting them up is, in your
opinion, an adequate system ? — ^The system of setting
them up.

27242. You are satisfied with the present method of
setting up Special Rules, that is to say, as I understand it,
that the manager, on behalf of the owner, will put forward
a certain rule which the men may, if they Hke, take ex-
ception to, and these Special Rules are sent to the Home
Office before they are established. You are satisBed that
it is not necessary that the men should be consulted pre-
vious to the mine owners having committed themselves to
certain Special Rules. Now the mine owner puts forward
certain Special Rules, and he is committed to those rules, to
a certain extent, before he consults the men at all. It has
been suggested that the men might be consulted before the
mine owner had come to any definite conclusion with
regard to the rules. He might say to the men, " I think
it desirable that certain Special Rules should be promul-
gated, but I should like to hear your opinion before I send
them to the Home Office for approval ? — I should like each
man to have a Special Rule put into his hand when he is
employed.

27243. I understand that you are satisfied with the
present system of setting them up ; the only criticism you
make with regard to the Special Rules is that you think
they should be printod in a more condensed form ? —
Yes.

27244. You think they are too long ?— Yes.

27245. Too elaborate ? — Too many words.

27246. You think that the gist of these rules, the kernel
of them, as it were, could be put in much simpler and
shorter language ? — Yes.

27247. You suggest that every workman should be made
to learn the chief provisions of the CosA Mines Regulation
Act before being employed. You would have some
examination. Would you suggest that the under-manager
or somebody else should be bound to give every workman
a certificate that he knew the Coal ^/Snea Regulation Act
before 4io was allowed to go underground ? — No, I do not
think I would do that ; I would give him the Special Rules
for him to keep and read himself and learn before he
goes on.

27248. Do you suggest the management should tell
the men it was very important that they should know the
Coal Mines Regulation Act ? — Yes.

27249. If the men do not choose after that warning to
take the trouble to learn the Act, you would lieave it there T
—Yes.

27250. Then you think that the Act, or a partof it,should
be included amonfi; the subjects set in the labour examina-
tions in our schools. What do you mean by "the labour
examinations " ?— I mean that would be a great help.



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272^1. What do you mean by " the labour ezamina-
tionfi " ; I do not understand the phrase " the labour
examinations " ? — The Coal Mnes Begulation Act ought
to be read in school during a part of the last year that
the boys are in that school. That is my meaning.

27262. You would have tihe CJoal Mines Regulation Act
as a special subject 7— Yes.

27263. You would call it a special labour subject ?—
Yes.

27264. This special subject, namely, the provisions of
the Coal Mines Regulation Act, to be taught to a boy in
the last year he was at school ? — Yes.

27265. Would you suggest that he should not be allowed
to work underground until he had pcused an examination
showing that he had mastered the provisions of the Coal
Mines Begulation Act ? — Yes.

27256. {Mr, Ratdiffe EUis.) Do you think that the
irregular attendance of the men is a cause of accident ? —
Yes.

27267. Do you mean leaving the place for some time
without anybody in it ? — Yes.

27268. So that when the collier is not at work there is
no person working in his place, and therefore it does not
get that attention it would if the man was engaged in it.
That is what you mean ? — Yes.

27259. Can you suggest any way by which men could be
induced to attend more regularly to their work ? — Well
I do not know. There is a lot of it, but of course when you
are losing work from sickness, you cannot help it.

27260. That is not the usual cause of absence ?— There
ts more loss of work without sickness.

27261. You cannot suggest that the employers can do
anything ? — ^No.

27262. It must be a movement among the men them-
selves to get more regular attendance ? — Yes.

27263. Who sets the timber with you ?~The timberman.

27264. In the working places ? — Each timberman
repairs his own road in the face.

27265. Who sets the timber in the working places ?
— The collier.

27266. Do you think he is the proper person to do
that ? — If he is not the proper person we put one there to
assist him.

I 27267. The collier does the timbering in his working
place ? — ^Yes.

27268. Do you think he is the best man to do that ?
I— Yea.

27269. He knows better than anybody else how to
protect himself in his working place ? — Yes, if he is a
competent person.

27270. In the roads the timberman does it ? — Yes, on
the repairing roads.

27271. You do not find fault with that arrangement?
—No.

27272. With regard to the charging of shots at your
colliery, the official charges the shots ? — We always keep
a shotman on purpose for it.

27273. Both to charge the shots and to fire the shota ?
—Yes.

27274. The collier drills the holes ?— Yes.

27275. That is his business ; and then when the shot-
lighter goes he sees that the hole is properly drilled
before he puts the charge in ? — Yes.

27276. That is an advantage ?— Yes.

27277. You think that is a good thing ?— Yes.

27278. You are speaking of shots in the coal now ?
— ^We do no shot-firing in the coal.

27279. Are yon speaking of the shot-firing in the
roadways ? — Yes, in the roof and sides.

27280. Is it usual in other collieries for that to be done
by the man who is repairing the road ? — Yes.

27281. And not by the shot-firer ?— No.

27282. W^ould you approve a regulation that no shots
should be fired in tJie roads except under the direction
of the manager ? — Under the direction of the shotman,

27283. I am going above the shot-lighter, I mean the
manager ? — Yes.

27284. Would you approve a resulation that the
manager must direct any firing in the roads ? — Yea



27285. The shotman would carry it out subject to the
direction of the manager ? — Yes. The maaager has to
make a report that such a road is to be fired in before the
shotman can do it now.

27286. Is that the case in your colliery ? — Yes.

27287. Is that generally so ?— At our colliery.

27288. (Mr, Wm. Abraham.) Do you say in your
colliery no shot is fired in the main roads except under
the direction of the manager ? — Yea ; he must make
a report on the book before the shot fireman can fire it
— that a shot is to be fired in such a place.

27289. {Mr. Ratdiffe Ellis.) Have you ever been a
shot fireman yourself ? — I have fired shots when I was a
fireman.

27290. Is there any regulation as to how soon after
a shot has been fired they may go into the place where it
has been fired ? — No, the shotman goes hack to see the
hole is all right, and then the men can go in at once.

27291. The men working on the roads ? — Yes, but we
are firing between shifts. •

27292. Do you fire more than one shot at a time ? —
No.

27293. What interval of time do you allow between
the firing of one shot and another ? — Five or ten minutes
if close to one another. ,

27294. Do you think that is enough time to allow ?
—Yes.

27295. (Chmnnan.) You represent the South Wales
Colliery Officials* Association ? — Yes.

27296. Numbering about 230 men ?— Yes.

27297. Do I understand that you placed before this
Association the notes of what you a<re going to say here ?
Do they know what you are going to say here ? — They
know part of it.

27298. You know sufficient of their views to be able to
assure the Commission that what you state is in the main
the views of your Association ? — Yes.

27299. I was rather astonished to hear you t<>ll Mr.
Ellis that you thought the collier the best man to set up
the timbers, because the Special Rules say that you yourself
(I have already directed your attention to it) shall direct
that the timbers are set in the best manner in all places
where they are required, and shall take care these direc-
tions are obeyed ? — Yes, by my direction they are putting
the timber up.

27300. You are the person to direct the collier ? — Yes.

27301. You know more about the timber than the
ordinary hewer ? — Of course.

(Mr. Wm. Abraham.) He believes that the hewer him-
self should be so practical in every case that he would
be able to put up the timber properly, but because they
are not he has to direct them.

27302. {Chairman.) You mean the hewer ought to be
better instructed in the art of putting up timber than he is
at present ? — Yes.

27303. At present he is not so well instructed as he
ought to be ; you have to give him directions, and you
think that a wrong system ? — I do not think that is a
wrong system. I quite agree that I should give instruc-
tions to the men to put up the timber if they are putting
it wrongly. I tell them that they must alter it.

27304. What you object to in the present state of
things is that the ordinary hewer does not know enough
about setting timber, and ought to know more ? — Yes.

27305. (Mr. Wm. Abraham.) As a rule, the Welsh collier
is a good timberer ? — Yes.

27306. But there are cases in which unskilled men are
engaged, and you cannot trust them to put up timber
because they do not know the way to do it ? — Yes.

27307. Your desire is that everyone engaged as a coal
hewer should be competent ? — Yes.

27308. That i^ why you ask that he should have some
certificate to prove that competency ? — Yes.

27309-12. You have no objection to the fireman or
overman having the responsibility of directing every-
body, competent as well as incompetent, where they find
it necessary ? — Oh dear no. I quite agree that the over-
man and fireman should direct the timbering, to teach
those men.

27313. You said in your opinion that you had not too
much to do ? — No.



^r. W.
^dhriffiths.

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There is no specific time for that ? — No.

You carry it with you and put it in your room ?



27314. You are quite able to do all the duties set out
to you ? — Yes.

27315. How many hours do you work in the day ?
— We work from 7 o'clock till 4.30.

27316. When are you found at the colliery in the
morning ? — ^I am there to see the men starting to go down
at 6 o'clock.

27317. You are there at 7 o'clock ?— Yes.

27318. That is not 6 o'clock. You are there
throughout the hours of working ? — Yes.

27319. When do you finish ?— 4.30 to 6.

27320. Do all the men come up before you leave ? —
Sometimes I am up with the first one ; at other times I
am down with the men.

27321. When do you leave the surface of the colliery ?
— You can say you leave at from 5 to 6.30.

27322. As a rule you are there at 6 o'clock in the morning
and as a rule you are there till 5.30 in the evening ? — Yes.

{Chairman.) Save you any time for dinner ?

27323. {Mr. Wm. Abraham.) He has no time for that.
With regard to eating food, you do that when you can ?
— Yes.

27324.

27325.'
—Yes.

27326. We want to know exactly what the state of
things is. Do not exaggerate it in any way ? — No, I
will tell you exactly as it is.

27327. You are now the night overman ? — Yes.

27328. You have the same duties allotted to you as a
night overman as if you were a day overman ? — Yes.

27329. In the absence of the under-manager would you
have his duties to perform T — Yes.

27330. I want to call your attention to Special Rule 42 :
" He shall be at the colliery during the working hours
of his shift, and shall not absent himself under any circum-
stances without first having had permission from his
superior officer, and given information to the person or
pei*sons next in authority below him of his intended
absence." Then Special Rule 43 : " He shall, during work-
ing hours, examine the travelling roads, airways, and
working places in the mine, and maintain over them and
over the timbering, ventilation, and lighting of the mine,
and all operations therein, a careful supervision, so as to
ensure the safety of all persons in the mine." WOl that
be all the travelling roads and all the working places ? —
Yes.

27331. Throughout the mine ?— Throughout the part
of the mine he has to look after.

27332. Is your mine divided into districts ?— Yes.

27333. Are you as overman supposed to examine all
the travelling roads outside your own district ? — No,
everyone has his district, the same as a fireman.

27334. In the first place you shall " during working
hours examine the travelling roads, airways, and working
places in the mine, and maintain over them and over the
timbering, ventilation, and lighting of the mine, and all
operations therein, a careful supervision, so as to ensure the
safety of all persons in the mine." I understood your first

answer to be that you do that in all parts of the mine ?

In all parts I am looking after. I have two firemen, and
another has two firemen, or perhaps another will have
three firemen. My duty will be to examine all the roads
and airways belonging to those two firemen.

27335. Is there another overman with you ? Yes.

27336. How many overmen are there ? — There are 10 in
the colliery.

27337. Which of the pits are you an overman in?— No. 2.

27338. How many districts is No. 2 divided into ?—



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